Grand Jury Hearing Tamir Rice Shooting Testimony

Almost a year after police fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the case has finally gone to a grand jury. reported on Tuesday that the panel has been hearing testimony from police officers involved, and reviewing other evidence for at least two weeks.

The grand jury will decide whether the Cuyahoga County prosecutor has sufficient evidence to bring charges against Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback for Rice’s death. Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said earlier he would not make any recommendations to grand jurors. 

Tamir was killed on Nov. 22, 2014, after Loehmann and Garmback responded to call about a male who was scaring people with a gun. The dispatcher never relayed other crucial information: the original caller said the suspect was probably a kid, and the gun was probably a toy. Loehmann shot Tamir less than two seconds after arriving at the park, where the youngster was standing in the gazebo. 

Tamir’s death immediately joined those of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York as examples of police brutality against African-American males.

The latest development roiled the youngster’s family, who learned the news from the media. Their attorney, Subodh Chandra, immediately blasted the prosecutor for keeping the family in the dark.

“The prosecutor has not informed Tamir Rice’s family about the grand-jury process starting…In contrast to the professionalism of the federal system, the (Rice) family is yet again being put in the position of responding to improper leaks and media inquiries,” Chandra wrote in a statement.

“The family remains disappointed by the prosecutor’s failure (1) to step aside for an independent prosecutor, or, if he continues to refuse (2) to affirm publicly that he believes there is probable cause to support criminal charges and that he’s seeking an indictment, just as he normally would in other criminal cases. The family thus believes that the secret process is being used as a cover for the prosecutor’s lack of interest in bringing charges,” Chandra wrote.

The family began to push for a special prosecutor about two weeks ago, after the McGinty’s office released two independent investigations saying police officers “reasonably” believed Tamir posed a legitimate threat when he was killed.

In his report S. Lamar Sims, a deputy district attorney from Denver, called Tamir’s death ” tragic and heartbreaking,” but concluded Loehmann acted appropriately in the situation.

Sims noted the policemen were responding to a gun call, “which suggests to any reasonable officer there is a concern for his own safety… and the safety of others.” He also mentioned protocol allows police to un-holster their weapon or place a hand on the holstered gun.  Sims said those circumstances, as well as Tamir’s movements when police approached,  altogether “suggest Officer Loehmann was reacting to an immediate threat resulting from the actions of a gunman, ” and met the criteria for deciding whether deadly force is reasonable or warranted.

Grand jurors will receive those reports, as well as an investigation by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff that was released in June. Although the sheriff’s office interviewed 27 people, the policemen refused to talk to investigators.